By Kelli Arena
The shootings at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University had one thing in common - Eric Thompson. He is one of the biggest online gun dealers in the country. He sold a gun to one shooter and equipment to the other. [cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2008/CRIME/04/16/vt.one.year.later/art.vt.community.candles.gi.jpg caption="A year later, Virginia Tech students say they have learned about themselves and their community."]
You'd probably never know that, though, had Thompson himself not made those facts public. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) is specifically prohibited by law from releasing that kind of information.
Thompson has been unusually public about a lot of things since those tragic shootings, in particular his remedy for dealing with gun violence.
"My answer to this problem is let people protect themselves," says Thompson.
That's right, more guns, or at least the threat of more guns. Thompson is pushing for more states to allow its citizens to conceal and carry, and he supports allowing students to carry guns on college and university campuses.
Dr. Charles J. Sophy
Medical Director of the LA County Department of Children & Family Services
The massacre that killed 32 students and professors at Virginia Tech last April may have put this university on the map, but Daniel's Kim suicide 8 months later (see here) is every bit as tragic. And in my opinion, more significant. Once again, at the same university, a profound failure of this school's mental health checks and balances system. But it's not just Virginia Tech's failure alone. This university's protocol for mental health issues is more similar than different than many other universities around the United States, and the protocol is simply not good enough.
We MUST make it good enough. And by the way, making it good enough, will still not save every person that is experiencing mental illness or issues, but it most certainly gives these individuals a fighting chance to survive. It is unbearable to me knowing that in Daniel Kim's case, only the police were called on his behalf for a wellness or welfare check. As a psychiatrist, the thought of someone in emotional turmoil being checked on by the police only, with all due respect, is tragic.
So, how do we begin to make it better? For starters, by putting into place a standardized "check and balance system" where we co-locate mental health with child welfare welfare with law enforcement. What this means is that schools needs to have a team of experts in place to respond to referrals or in the case of Virginia Tech, an emergency e-mail. And these teams must all be called into play during both routine assessments and in emergencies, regardless if the individual lives on or off campus. These multi-disciplinary teams should be reaching to each other, looking at the crisis from all angles: mental health, child welfare, safety risk, and law enforcement. These angles are connected and intertwined. And once the appropriate people are looking at the right pieces, maybe these kids can be saved.
Note from 360° Producer Kay Jones: A year ago, I went to the memorial at Cassell Coliseum on the campus at Virginia Tech, and afterward met up with student Andy Koch and his friend and former suitemate John Eide. They had agreed to tell us about Seung-Hui Cho, who hours earlier had been identified as the shooter in the Virginia Tech Massacre. After about an hour of conversation, they agreed to go on camera and tell their story to Gary Tuchman.
I have kept in touch with Andy, and recently asked him to blog about how his life has changed the past year. You can read that below, and watch Gary Tuchman’s interview with Andy and John from April 17, 2007... one day after 32 people were killed by Cho.
Former roomate of VA Tech shooter
It doesn’t seem like a year has past since last April. I have experienced a whole range of emotions from guilt, sadness, anger and disbelief. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of the thirty-two lives lost that day.
Last April has changed me along with others in good and bad ways. It has an already close campus even closer. It has also robbed many people of their innocence. Before April 16th most students went about their day with out any worries. I can say for myself that when I go in to classrooms I now think about how I would protect myself in the event if something similar happened again. I was not even in Norris that day and I think about these things. I have wondered if some of these feelings will fade over time when I graduate this May and am no longer around Virginia Tech everyday.
caption="Watch CNN Special Investigations Unit's Abbie Boudreau report on campus rage tonight on 360°."]
Since we aired our Special Investigations Unit documentary "Campus Rage," we have received thousands of emails. Most of these responses are from teachers and parents who think bullying is getting out of control –- not just at school, but in cyberspace as well.
Of course, bullying is not a new problem.
I saw it when I was in school and I’m sure you did too. When my older sister was in the fourth grade, she was bullied so badly, my parents chose to take her out of school and send her to a different one in the middle of the school year. Her classmates relentlessly teased her for being “too smart.” In her case, it wasn’t just other kids who picked on her, it was her teacher as well. (She was able to overcome the bullying and by the time she was a senior in high school - she was the class valedictorian and homecoming queen!)
But the questions remain - Has bullying gotten worse? Or are the kids who are being bullied seeking out more revenge?
I want to hear from those of you who are being bullied. What is your day like at school? What do you want bullies to know about how they make you feel?
And for you bullies out there, why do you pick on other kids? I would love an explanation.
– Abbie Boudreau, Correspondent/CNN Special Investigations Unit
Program note: How do you stop a killer bent on revenge? Watch AC 360° tonight at 10 p.m. ET.
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